Despicable People

Joe Arpaio and his racist, conspiratorial ideology got crushed in Arizona’s GOP Senate primary

There was a time when Joe Arpaio‘s grip over Arizona’s Maricopa County seemed immovable, earning him the moniker “toughest sheriff in America” as he terrorized the immigrant communities in the city he oversaw. Now, it seems like his period of relevance has come to an end. According to NBC News, Arpaio was crushed in the Arizona GOP state primary this Tuesday night.

Rep. Martha McSally (R) handily defeated the former sheriff and Kelli Ward, setting her up for a November battle over control of the Senate. NBC reports McSally had 51.4 percent, or 196,452 votes, to Ward’s 28.6 percent, or 109,105 votes, and Arpaio’s 20 percent, or 76,517 votes, with 58 percent of precincts reporting at the time.

Arpaio’s political career was in trouble long before his loss on Tuesday night. Polls showed him trailing Ward, who was the subject of criticism due to her penchant for giving a platform to the internet’s worst conspiracy theorists. Arpaio’s campaign was described as being “in chaos,” and it wasn’t made any better by the fact that he had to split the right-wing nutjob vote with Ward.

As The New York Times‘ Michelle Cottle points out, Arpaio was much more than just an anti-immigrant hawk.

His 24-year reign of terrorwas medieval in its brutality. In addition to conducting racial profiling on a mass scale and terrorizing immigrant neighborhoods with gratuitous raids and traffic stops and detentions, he oversaw a jail where mistreatment of inmates was the stuff of legend. Abuses ranged from the humiliating to the lethal. He brought back chain gangs. He forced prisoners to wear pink underwear. He set up an outdoor “tent city,” which he once referred to as a “concentration camp,” to hold the overflow of prisoners. Inmates were beaten, fed rancid food, denied medical care (this included pregnant women) and, in at least one case, left battered on the floor to die

Arpaio was one of the most vocal proponents of the debunked “birther” conspiracy theory, which claims that former President Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen and is instead a secret Muslim of Kenyan origin. Earlier this year, he promised to resurrect the issue and claimed that he has proved “100 percent” that Obama’s birth certificate is a “fake document.” Of course, that proof is nowhere to be found. Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961 and released copies of his birth certificate in April, 2011.

McSally’s victory is a relief for opponents of Trumpism and the more rational factions of the GOP. She’s made gender the forefront of her campaign and will be up against another woman in the general election this fall, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

Whatever the outcome, the depositing of Arpaio and Ward into the dustbin of history where they belong is a victory for moral principles and the deference to truth. Hopefully that train will keep moving forward.

Featured image via Gage Skidmore (Flickr)

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